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GODFREY - Fifth graders from across the Riverbend flocked to Lewis and Clark Community College (LCCC) Sept. 29 for the 15th Annual Water Festival.

The festival, which is hosted by the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center (NGRREC) - a research branch of the college, celebrates water in all of its forms and uses in both modern society and antiquity. Students spent most of the day perusing several educational events with the overall theme of H2O. NGRREC Environmental Educator Allison Rhanor said the event was designed to help both students and teachers become more acquainted with a vital and nearby plentiful resource.

"The students come out here and get to enjoy the day and learn a lot about water treatment, sustainability, pollution, everything, but on Monday, their teachers spend a day with me, and I give them a workshop about water treatment and resource curriculum," Rhanor said. "We have a lot more demand than we can accommodate, and we want to make sure these kids have a day to learn about water, so we give the teachers the methods to teach them in the classroom."

Teaching methods for students at the Water Festival were exceedingly hands-on. Several volunteers and local organizations had stations for the children, including Illinois American Water, which brought its mobile education station used to teach students about how their water is sourced and how it is treated before it is able to come out from their taps.

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The Lewis and Clark State Historic Site brought a replica of the White Pirogue, which is based on one of the vessels used on Lewis and Clark's journey to the Pacific from the Missouri River. Students were able to learn about the craft from volunteers, Brad Winn and Justine Dorn, who dressed in period-appropriate clothing and taught children about the importance and transport of water during that expedition.

"We've been coming out here with this since around the time it started 15 years ago," Winn said.

Other educational activities were available including: NGRREC's Life and Death in Aquatic Ecosystems, which utilized hide-and-seek to demonstrate the complicated ecosystem of predators and prey within water systems, The Audubon Center at Riverlands-sponsored "Oil Spill," which used a mock oil spill in a simulated pond setting to show students the environmental impact and cleaning procedures involved in oil spills," and a "Water Walk Challenge" by Shoeman Water Projects, which shows children the struggle of water transportation in nations with less access to infrastructure through a water-carrying obstacle course.

Students were also tasked with bringing shoes to donate to Shoeman Water Projects. The class with the most donated shoes was celebrated at lunch, which was pizza provided to the students. Rhanor said Shoman Water Projects was partnered with the NGRREC in managing the event.

Shoeman Water Projects collects shoes to keep them from landfills and to continue to recycle and upcycle them. It also works around the world on water projects to help areas of economic strife and infrastructure isolation have clean and dependable water without expending an entire day to attain it.

The event lasted from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. The seven schools in attendance were: Estelle Kampmeyer, lllini Middle, Lovejoy Elementary, Meadowbrook Intermediate, North Elementary, Sorento Elementary and Trinity Lutheran.

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